The Practicalities of Accidental “Full-time” EC

This post is part of the Natural Living Series. Guest Juliet is blogging about elimination communication today and sharing her tips. For more information about Juliet, be sure to check out the bottom of this post and for more posts on natural baby care, check out our week of natural baby care posts.

When my partner and I started out with elimination communication (EC) with our son Leon, we planned for “part time” – offering at home whenever possible, using nappy (diaper) backup, and not worrying when out and about. Then Leon gave me an obvious cue when we were out at a slingmeet, and of course, off we went to the toilet. When he peed, I felt thrilled for both of us… And thus it was that we found ourselves doing what looked a lot more like “full time” EC – in the sense of observing and responding to cues at all times.

I still, however, couldn’t face the idea of going nappy free when out and about; not to mention the fact that when we experimented with going nappy free at home, Leon just learnt to pee standing up (so he didn’t get wet – smart kid), stopped bothering to signal, and peed merrily on the floor instead. Back into nappies for us – but which nappies? And what about potties when out of the house? And then there was nighttime… Read on for some practical tips from our EC experience so far.


Everyone agrees that cloth is the best bet with EC. It helps babies to feel the dampness in a way that they don’t with disposables (although good quality cloth will still wick it away fast enough that they’re not uncomfortable if you can’t change straight away). Also, disposables are tough to reuse if they’re still dry — those little tabs just aren’t designed to be unstuck and restock again.

We tried quite a few types of cloth nappy when Leon was small, and very rapidly came to the conclusion that any two-part system (a system with a wrap, for example) was immensely annoying. We ended up standardising on all-in-one pocket nappies, which are quick to take off and on (I prefer poppers [snaps] to velcro, you may feel differently), and quick to dry. (Baba and Boo, specifically, and I love their prints.)

The one downside of AIO nappies for us was a slightly higher chance of blowouts or nappy flooding. But if you’re doing EC, you’re hoping to catch most pees or poos, so in practice we’ve very rarely had daytime leakage.

If you do miss, make sure you change the nappy ASAP, even if it doesn’t “need” it. You want to acknowledge to your child that they’ve peed, and get them dry again, to make it clear that dry pants is the norm.

Potty Options

Some folk talk about taking a potty around wherever they go. These folk always seem to have cars. We don’t have a car, nor even a pushchair (stroller) – we exclusively carry, so travelling light is essential. Happily, the classic EC “in arms” position works just fine in an adult toilet. This has the added advantage that, if you’re able to change your baby on your knee and nappies are almost always just wet, you needn’t wait for a baby change. Just pop into the nearest adult toilet, hold them over the toilet and cue, then replace that or a new nappy while you sit on the toilet seat.

At home, our top hat potty is the business. So much so that we had two, one for upstairs and one for downstairs. Particularly handy at night, which brings me to…

Night Time

Initially, we didn’t do night time EC; we just put a well-boosted nappy on and left him in it until the morning. Then I realised that Leon was having very restless patches in the night because he needed to pee. If I held him over the potty (sometimes while feeding as he would be a bit snoozy and grouchy), he would pee and be asleep again far quicker. More sleep for all!

However, our AIOs would occasionally flood with mega night wees; two-parters were a big hassle to deal with in the dark; and going nappy free meant any misses guaranteed a big puddle. Our solution is to use a Brolly Sheet (a small, absorbent, waterproof sheet) over the bottom bed sheet, and have a towel to hand. If there’s a leakage, I put a clean nappy on him, throw the towel over the Brolly Sheet, go to sleep, and wash the lot in the morning. Other EC parents find that sleeping on a towel or a pile of prefolds works for them, so it’s worth experimenting.

When away, I either deal with the two-part nappies, or pack the Brolly Sheet. (Which also saved the sheets on a sleeper train recently when L got sick in the night!)

Emotional practicality

If you’re like me, you may find yourself getting frustrated with yourself when you miss a cue. And you will miss cues. We have days where Leon wears the same nappy, dry, straight through the day. Then we have days when we go through 7 or 8 nappies. We have months when every poo goes in the toilet, and weeks when we miss or nearly miss all of them.

I read recently that a 50% catch rate with pees is pretty good. The rest of the time… well, we’re all working on it. The baby is learning about their body (how long can I hold it for…? Oh.), and sometimes they’re just too busy to worry about it. The parent is learning cues, and sometimes isn’t paying 100% attention (cooking, doing chores…). And cues change as the baby develops; it can take a while to catch up.

Take a deep breath, and remind yourself that you are both learning. You’re trying to communicate with your baby and meet their needs, and that is awesome. Sometimes there will be puddles. Sometimes there will be loads of catches. It’s all part of the process. Don’t turn it into a massive point of parenting success or fail. Remember that constant parenting mantra: this too will pass. And celebrate those moments of connection.

Juliet Kemp lives in London, UK, with her partners, baby Leon, and dog Sidney. She works from home as a freelance writer, and balances that with parenting, gardening, crafting, and a great many other things that catch her interest. She blogs at Twisting Vines about making things and growing things, and is passionate about sustainability, environmental issues, and respectful parenting.

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